Representative of the Socialist Left Party (SV) and County Councillor in the Municipality of Drammen
What is important for newly arrived immigrants to know about Norwegian society?
It is important that immigrants know something about Norwegians’ relationship to religion. They must understand that not everything they see in Norwegian society is accepted by the Christian faith as well. For example, many immigrants see drunken Norwegians on the street at weekends. They therefore think that all Norwegians drink and that this is the Christian lifestyle. And that of course is not the way things are. It is important to know that religion is not as obvious in society here as it is in many other countries. Many Norwegians are not religious, either.
Another thing is that immigrants often meet Norwegians who are not representative of most Norwegians. Unfortunately it is often the case that young immigrants hang out with young Norwegians who have problems. This makes it easy for them to believe that all Norwegians are like these youngsters and their families.
I think it is important for immigrants in Norway to be interested in learning about Norwegians and their traditions. They ought to learn about Christmas and Easter and show respect for these festivals. If immigrants are going to get to know Norwegians, they first have to understand their ways and learn the unwritten rules. This will make them feel more confident when they meet Norwegians.
What does Norwegian society expect from immigrants?
Norwegian society expects a lot from each individual person who lives here. This applies to both Norwegians and immigrants. Society expects us to be familiar with its laws and rules, and to comply with them. A modern society makes many demands. We are supposed to succeed both in education and work, our families are supposed to do well, and attention is supposed to be paid to our children. Those who don’t manage to live up to these expectations can easily fall by the wayside.
I also think that society makes some unrealistic demands of some immigrants. Norwegians themselves have not yet finished discussing the war that ended 60 years ago. Immigrants with traumatic backgrounds are nonetheless expected to put their bad experiences behind them as quickly as possible.
What do immigrants expect from Norwegian society?
I think that the expectations that immigrants had before were greater. In the 1980s, many immigrants expected society to be there for them and sort out everything for them. I am not sure about the expectations they have now, but I think that the majority are more realistic. There are probably big differences depending on the individual immigrant’s background.
Have you experienced any misunderstandings?
I know that much of the information immigrants get comes from their own countrymen. This information is often incorrect and creates misunderstandings. It is difficult to get rid of such misunderstandings.
What are your hopes for the future?
If immigrants do not get more involved and become more visible in society, I am afraid that some groups of immigrants will end up forming a new underclass in Norway.
I want immigrants to participate more actively in Norwegian society. I want them to be visible in their local communities, for example on housing cooperative committees, and by taking part in voluntary communal work together with Norwegians.
Imagine if all youngsters could be proud of both their own ethnic background and still feel Norwegian.
When I meet a Turk on the street in Drammen and ask: “Where are you from?” I want to hear him say: “I am from Drammen!”
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